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Facts about Eli Whitney for Kids


  • Eli Whitney was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin.
  • Whitney’s invention made upland short cotton into a profitable crop, which strengthened the economic foundation of slavery in the United States.
  • Despite the social and economic impact of his invention, Whitney lost many profits in legal battles over patent infringement for the cotton gin.
  • Thereafter, he turned his attention into securing contracts with the government in the manufacture of muskets for the newly formed United States Army.
  • Whitney expected to study law but, finding himself short of funds, accepted an offer to go to South Carolina as a private tutor.
  • Her plantation manager and husband-to-be was Phineas Miller, another Connecticut migrant and Yale graduate, who would become Whitney’s business partner.
  • In the North the adoption of interchangeable parts revolutionized the manufacturing industry, and contributed greatly to their victory in the Civil War.
  • Attempts at interchangeability of parts can be traced back as far as the Punic Wars through both archaeological remains of boats now in Museo Archeologico Baglio Anselmi and contemporary written accounts.
  • Whitney, who had never made a gun in his life, obtained a contract in January 1798 to deliver 10,000 to 15,000 muskets in 1800.
  • Ten months later, Treasury Secretary Wolcott sent him a “foreign pamphlet on arms manufacturing techniques,” possibly one of Honoré Blanc’s reports, after which Whitney first began to talk about interchangeability.
  • Recently, historians have found that during 1801–1806, Whitney took the money and headed into South Carolina in order to profit from the cotton gin.